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Do more with your smartphone without paying more for mobile data

mobile data wizard

If you listen to most phone companies, you need a boat load of mobile data to keep up. They seem to have read up on the psychology of super-sizing and do a great job of push people into higher and higher usage brackets.

We’re here to tell you there’s a smarter way. That a few minutes thinking about how you use your phone can pay dividends when you’re with a less prescriptive, pay for what you use carrier like, oh, I don’t know, Ting.

Being a “power user” and using a lot of mobile data doesn’t go hand in hand. With a little forethought, you can get all the smartphone stuff you want without the heavy bill. Simple things like saving your favorite music and podcasts for offline use and downloading a couple episodes of the latest Netflix show can drastically cut your data use.

Those are just a couple of small examples. Read on for more ways you can regain control of how your phone uses mobile data. It’s a lot easier than you might think.


Take control of your mobile data

Android mobile data usageDay one, you’re going to want to keep an eye on your usage. We’ll figure out which apps are using up your data (often without your permission) before taking action.

Android users:
Keep your eye on the Data usage section inside Settings. Here, you can sort by Cellular data vs Wi-Fi and view the amount of data used by each specific app. Tapping on an app lets you separate what’s being used in the foreground (when you’ve opened the app) and background (when data is being used without your knowledge). If you notice any apps using more background data than you’d like, simply turn on the “Restrict app background data” toggle at the bottom of the page. Keep in mind that when “Restrict app background data” is enabled and you’re not on Wi-Fi, you’ll only be using data and seeing what’s new when you specifically open the app. When you’re on Wi-Fi, your phone will still update in the background… but that’s not data use you have to directly pay for. [Learn more]

ios cellular data usageiOS users:
Keep your eye on the Cellular section inside Settings. Scroll down to manage which apps have access to your cellular data. Disable any apps that you don’t want to connect to the Internet while you’re on-the-go. These apps will stay dormant until you’re back within a Wi-Fi connection (even if you open them, they won’t connect to the Internet on a mobile network). If you don’t need up-to-the-second updates in Instagram, for example, it’s a worthwhile trade-off.

While iOS doesn’t keep tabs on specific months of data usage (it only shows the total), you can restart this counter by tapping “Reset Statistics” at the bottom of the page. To get the best understanding of which apps are using your mobile data, you should wipe these statistics and during your first day of usage, periodically check the Cellular page to see which apps have been using your mobile data. While you’re not able to sort between foreground (when you’ve opened the app) and background (when data is being used without your knowledge) for each app like you can on Android, it’s still pretty easy to figure out. Just keep a mental note of which apps you’ve actually been opening and using, so you can find the culprits using cellular data without your approval and disable them so you don’t get dinged later. [Learn more]


Whether you’re an Android or iOS user, at the end of your first day you should have a basic understanding of which apps can and can’t access your cellular data. Your apps should now be split into two groups: One group that has been restricted from connecting to your network data, and one group that hasn’t been blocked from cellular data use.

mobile data saving facebook chromeInside the app

Many popular apps today include built-in data saving toggles and features. It’s likely that several you’ve deemed important enough to access your cellular data can still reduce its data usage. For example, Google Chrome offers a compression setting that can reduce your data usage inside the app by up to 50%. Facebook recently added a Data Saver toggle to its app, along with Snapchat and Instagram too.

Whether you like listening to music or podcasts, all the popular apps (like Spotify) include features to help you predownload your media over a Wi-Fi connection so you can have an identical experience without wasting mobile data on things that could easily be accomplished on your home or office (or coffee shop) wireless network.

Our weekly Ting tips dive into data saving tricks hidden inside the latest and greatest smartphone apps, so it’s likely that we’ve covered some of the apps you just can’t live without.

Wi-Fi it up

llama Wi-Fi instead of mobile data

It may sound simple, but there’s more to taking advantage of Wi-Fi than you may think.

You can use an automatic task app like Llama (shown above) or Tasker to automatically turn Wi-Fi on or off when you arrive at or leave a specific location, like home, work or school.

You can also lower your monthly bill by taking advantage of calling and texting apps when you’re on a Wi-Fi connection. Hangouts, iMessage, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Skype all let you call and text for free while on Wi-Fi, but that’s a separate conversation.
opera max mobile data

Compress it all

Make your mobile data go even further with a compression app. These data saving apps use a VPN to reroute and compress images, videos and other media you’ve opened on your device. While visual quality will be slightly reduced, you’ll be using less mobile data than you normally would. If you’re a fan of image-heavy apps like Instagram, Flipboard or Reddit, you’ll benefit greatly from one of these data-saving apps. If you’re comfortable routing some of your stuff through a third party, this can add up to significant data savings.

The two frontrunners are currently Onavo Extend and Opera Max. Both apps are developed by respected developers and offer a similar experience. Opera Max also offers video compression where Onavo Extend does not.

 

 


You may think you need unlimited, and for some people, the extra expense and waste is a worthwhile trade-off. That said, what the major carriers don’t want you to know, is that the more you know about your phone, the more control you take back. We’re fans of and advocates for people taking control.

While some may think you have to shut off mobile data entirely and therefore severely hamstring your mobile experience, it’s not like that at all. You don’t have to sacrifice the connected smartphone experience to save money on mobile data.

With a little early effort and a little ongoing maintenance (ensuring new apps aren’t eating up mobile data, for example) you take control of your mobile data use and, with a carrier like, oh, I don’t know, Ting, you can save a lot of money every month.

In short, you don’t have to cut off your mobile experience in order to cut your mobile bill.


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